To fully appreciate the music on this release, you should read the liner notes. To appreciate Thomas Tallis’ artistry, you just have to listen.

This release features Tallis compositions written for the nascent Church of England. The music reflects the latest scholarship, which shines new light on Tallis and his catalog.

The text for Se lord and behold is now believed to be written by Queen Katherine Parr in 1544. It was set to an early version of Tallis’ Gaude gloriosa.

The liner notes go further into the origins of the work, and the historical evidence behind the current view. The release also includes later version of Gaude gloriosa dei mater for comparison.

The third major work on the album is a setting of the Litany, also from 1544. It’s definitely music of its time. The cantor asks the Lord to not only take away the congregation’s sins, and protect His servant Henry VIII, but also to deliver them from “the tyranny of the bishop of Rome and all his detestable enormities.(!)”

Though the text is somewhat heavy-handed, Tallis’ music remains sublimely buoyant and beautiful. Also included are some shorter Reformation hymns for voices and instruments.

Alamire has a rich, full ensemble sound that’s well-suited to this music. They’re recorded in a large space that lets the sound decay in a satisfying fashion. Fretwork performs to their same high standards as well. Lines are cleanly executed, and there’s a wonderful warmth to the ensemble’s overall sound.

The musicological and historical content of this release is important. But what really makes it is the of the music and the of the performances.

Thomas Tallis: Queen Katherine Parr and Songs of Reformation
Alamire; Fretwork
Obsidian CD716